29th March 1972. From Films to Bingo.

J Arthur Rank, a Methodist, would turn in his grave at the thought of his film business ending as a gambling empire.

The films of J Arthur Rank who died Today in 1972 are best remembered for being preceded by the reverberating sound recorded on the Chinese ‘tam- tam’ and showing the muscular beater of a giant gong, the boxer ‘Bombardier’ Billy Wells.


Bong! with the muscular Billy Wells.

In reality it was played by percussionist James Blades who said ‘that was the greatest noise I ever made.'(1)

The milling and film magnate J.(Joseph) Arthur Rank was born in 1888 in Hull, South Yorkshire. However he sadly lived long enough to witness the devastation of his flour-mills in the city in WWII from enemy bombing.

Rank a staunch Methodist and Sunday school teacher went into films to promote the Christian message. In 1941 he bought Gaumont-British and its sister Gainsborough Pictures.

Gaumont-British Picture Company produced and distributed films operating a chain in the UK. Founded in 1898 it was a British subsidiary of the French Gaumont Film Company, becoming independent in 1922.

In 1927 it was the leading silent film maker when Ideal Films merged with Gaumont. The Company’s Lime Grove Studios produced Hitchcock’s ’39 Steps’ in 1935 and its Islington Studios made Hitchcock’s 1938 ‘The Lady Vanishes’. The company employed 16 thousand in the 1930s.

Rank was a household name, post-war in film production and Gaumont cinemas, however time moved on and the last Gaumont named cinema, ended in Doncaster on January 1987 becoming an Odeon.

By the new millennium Rank had sold Pinewood Studios, Odeon Cinemas, Rank Xerox, Butlins and Haven Holidays.

The Company later went into Bowling Alleys-Top Rank-which they pulled out of in the 1970s, as the fad declined, along with Bingo, Gambling and Leisure.

Owning Grosvenor Casinos, Mecca Bingo, Rank Interactive Online Betting it effectively ended its association with films when in December 2005 it sold the Deluxe Films, formerly Rank Film Laboratories.


Gaumont State Empire, Kilburn, London.

The former Gaumont State Empire, Kilburn, London. Opened in 1937 from the 1980s to 2007 it was a Mecca Bingo Hall.



(1) In 1941 he had previously made the ‘V’ for victory sound, based on the first four notes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony which introduced broadcasts to occupied Europe. ‘I recorded it by beating an African tom-tom that I bought in a junk shop for a fiver.’






Ref: vciclassicfilms.wordpress.com/Pic Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/gaumont_british

Ref: wikipedia.org/gaumont_state_empire. Pic Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/j arthur rank. Pic Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/rank_group.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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